The Optimists

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China Plate’s unique training opportunity for emerging artists, creative practitioners and aspiring producers, delivered in partnership with Warwick Arts Centre. 

“The Optimists is invaluable for anyone wanting to navigate the arts industry. I have learned more than I could imagine possible and met so many inspiring (and very useful!) contacts.” – Optimist Alumni.

Are you an emerging producer or creative hoping to develop your professional producing skills in the subsidised arts sector?

The Optimists offers an introduction to the craft of producing in a professional context and building professional networks by de-mystifying the financial, administrative and organisational aspects of producing.

Drawing on China Plate’s extensive experience and real examples in theatre producing, the Optimists provides knowledge and insight on the practicalities of making, funding, touring and promoting your work.

The Optimists course is led by China Plate, with the support of guest industry experts and speakers.

Our next course will be taking place in Spring 2024 – to keep up to date with applications opening, make sure to follow our socials or sign up to receive our monthly newsletter here.

If you have any questions, please contact our Training & Development Producer, Kristina on [email protected]

Want The Optimists in your setting?

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Want The Optimists in your setting?

We currently deliver The Optimists programme once a year as an open-call opportunity to emerging artists, creative practitioners, and aspiring producers. We also frequently deliver bespoke versions of The Optimists with a partner organisation and in educational settings.

Having delivered The Optimists for almost 15 years, we have reputable course content which provides a foundation knowledge in producing – from demystifying the role of the producer to practical skills like putting together a project budget, fundraising, reaching new audiences and embedding inclusivity, access, well-being and environmental responsibility into the process and delivery of work. This content can be tailored and adapted to the needs of an organisation/group. We will work collaboratively with an organisation to ensure the course is catered to the experience-level of the cohort, as well as cover/expand upon areas of producing that are of particular interest.

In the past we have adapted The Optimists to be delivered with a range of different groups, including students at Universities and Drama Schools (University of Birmingham, East 15, Rose Bruford), theatre-makers enrolled in regional development programmes, for example, In Good Company; Derby Theatre; and a group of Assistant Producers as part of Shoot Festival.

Working with China Plate is a dream; their level of rigour and clarity is refreshing and makes working with them very effective when you’re time poor and trying to make good (and often bespoke) development happen. The Optimists is the recognised fast track to producing for your local independent sector, if you want to develop your local arts ecology giving the gift of The Optimists is one of the best things you can do.” Ben Anderson Director of Lincoln Arts Centre (formerly of In Good Company).

We also have a track record of successfully adjusting our training and artist development models to work in different context, such as within musical theatre, rural dance and when exploring co-creative practice.

“The Place worked alongside China Plate as two of the founding partners of the Rural Touring Dance Initiative. China Plate brought huge producing expertise, as well as masses of care and love for the artists & audiences that the project served. They adapted their tried and tested models for artist residencies and labs to suit the dance and rural touring contexts, giving the artists and producers taking part the tools and confidence to tour their work to rural places. It was a joy to work with Ed and all at China Plate.” Christina Elliot, Head of Programming & Producing, The Place.

In working with us, we will provide:

  • Tried and tested course content that is constantly reviewed and updated based on changes in the sector
  • Delivery from our producing team, providing first hand skills and reflections from our own on the ground experience as theatre producers within the subsidised arts sector
  • High calibre guest speakers in discussion with your needs and budget
  • Tailored content / speakers specific to the group – whether adjusted for:
    • Age/experience-level
    • Art form / context
    • Learning styles/access considerations
    • Any other that can be discussed with us

If you would like to discuss curating The Optimist programme for your organisation, please contact our Training & Development Producer Kristina on [email protected]

The Optimists 2023 Course

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Scroll down to check out our 2023 Optimist cohort. 

China Plate in partnership with Warwick Arts Centre.

The 2023 Optimists course consisted of 10 sessions taking place over 9 weeks for up to 20 participants. Sessions took place both online and in-person, launching at Birmingham Hippodrome.

“The knowledge, guidance, and resources (given) over the complete course are simply amazing. I have grown as an artist, producer, and all-round theatre-maker, and learned a plethora of transferable skills along the way.” – Optimists Alumni

Topics included:

  • New ideas and how to articulate them
  • Expenditure
  • Income
  • Fundraising: including Arts Council England, trusts and foundations and other sources
  • Administration: budgets, contracts, company setup, general management, theatre tax relief
  • Inclusive practice and access
  • Audiences and how to reach them
  • Venues: getting through door

Who is it for?

The course is suitable for emerging producers, administrators, artists, creative practitioners, etc who are hoping to develop their skills as professional producers, or as a producer of their own work, in the subsidised arts sector.

The course is open to those working across different art forms (e.g., dance, live art, spoken word, etc) but has a particular focus on producing and touring live work in the theatre industry.

Participants should have at least 12 months of professional/industry experience in the arts sector – it is not aimed at those who have recently graduated or who are completely new to working in the arts sector. This course is not appropriate for those with more than 3 years of professional experience working as a producer.

Course Cost:

  • For freelancers/individuals: £480 per person (inclusive of VAT)
  • For organisations: £660 per person (inclusive of VAT)

Bursaries covering the full cost of the course are available to those who have faced racism, discrimination and/or cultural barriers due to their ethnicity, disability, D/deafness, gender identity or socio-economic background – see guidelines for details.

Our next course will be taking place in Spring 2024 – to keep up to date with applications opening, make sure to follow our socials or sign up to receive our monthly newsletter here.

If you have any questions, please contact our Training & Development Producer Kristina on [email protected]

Image: The 2018 Optimists cohort

The Optimists 2023 Cohort

Stephanie Andrews profile picture

Stephanie Andrews

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Stephanie Andrews

I am Steph, I currently work at Derby Theatre as their Arts Administrator for Creative Programmes, where I work closely with the Senior Producer on all produced and received shows at the venue.

I’m exceptionally excited about the ever changing and developing theatre happening everywhere, with new theatre-makers who are challenging boundaries. I am always amazed by how the arts can impact and allow us to reflect and impact so greatly, I thoroughly believe everyone deserves a place/space to express themselves and I want to help make that possible.

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Saskia Baylis

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Saskia Baylis

I work for a commercial producer in London and in my free time produce my own projects.

I like to work on new writing and new translation projects, for film and theatre, ideally working with the writers on developing the script from an early stage.

I would love to do some writing myself one day.

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Lesley Cobbina

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Lesley Cobbina

I’m an Actor, Singer, Director, Theatre Maker (and soon to be trained producer) who has graduated from the University of Northampton, where I studied Acting for contemporary devised performance.

I recently worked as Assistant Producer on Highrise Entertainment’s The UK Drill Project. I’m also an Associate artist of Highrise Entertainment and starred As ‘Baloo’ in their show The Concrete Jungle Book, directed by Dominic Garfield in both 2021 and 2022.

As an emerging theatre maker, I believe having a better knowledge of self-producing and producing for others will allow me to create and aid the creation on some amazing theatre.

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Becky David

I am the Admin & Comms Officer for Luca Silvestrini’s Protein dance company and a freelance dance producer. I graduated from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and Central School of Speech and Drama.

Since graduating I have supported the education programmes at The Royal Academy of Dance, The Royal Ballet School and worked with AWA Dance on the Women in Dance Award, helping to recognise and celebrate the achievements of female-identifying leaders in the dance sector. I developed a passion for community, outdoor arts whilst at Emergency Exit Arts and strongly believes in its ability to educate, engage and introduce new audiences to the arts.

At Protein Dance I am currently working on a celebration event for Refugee Week 2023 and setting up a dance project for children in alternative provision schools.
Alongside my work with Protein, I work with emerging choreographers and advocates for better sector support for early-career choreographers.

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Holly Ditchburn Clark

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Holly Ditchburn Clark

I am Holly, a neurodivergent theatre maker and producer based in the West Midlands.

I have self-produced and co-produced my own solo shows; FLAPPY, about Dyspraxia which received Arts Council England funding and toured in Midland’s venues. I have also produced scratch nights such as Theatre Mix – a series of online scratch nights for West Midlands artist, from musicians, poets, actors, dancers to try out work.

I am passionate about accessibility within events and performances and planning accessibility before a project has begun, ensuring accessibility in rehearsals, marketing, and performances. I am on learning curve on testing and learning how best to do this.

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Terri Donovan

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Terri Donovan

I’m a disabled, hard of hearing and neurodivergent actor and writer from Stockport.

I’m a graduate of The Lir’s BA Acting course in 2021, current advisory board member at the West End’s Jerymn Street Theatre and currently part of Pentabus’ National Young writers programme and CRIPtic theatre’s Reach development scheme.

My interest in The Optimists comes from previously working as a producer on my play Imitation Princess where I successfully received Arts Council England funding for an R&D (Research and Development) and wish to learn how to develop my producing skills for future productions.

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Sherrie Edgar

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Sherrie Edgar

I am a Visual Artist, Producer, Production Manager and Art Director, working across film, photography, installation, and audio.

My work has been included and featured at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Belgrade Theatre, UK Screen Skills, and the Midlands Art Centre.

Making relatable content is important for equal representation and opportunity. My passion and energy are to deliver innovative ideas for screen and live performance, expanding possibilities through integrated mediums, technology, R&D, and helping transform local visual culture.

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Sarah Edmead

My journey as a Producer started a year and half ago, when I began teaching myself the various roles involved in creating a production through reading testimonies, analysing plays, speaking to other producers, and attending events. I entered a competition at the Belgrade Theatre to showcase my play. Although unsuccessful, I was awarded the opportunity to participate in a Producer workshop.

I enjoy using art as a vehicle for change, accessibility, entertainment, justice, research, and education and an opportunity to break down the elitist barrier that theatre is a space for all ethnic groups. I’m from the Black Country and enjoy upcycling products, song writing, producing ideas for productions and organising events in my spare time.

Currently, I work full-time as a Project Manager in Housing Developer. However, attending The Optimist course will provide a good foundation for my next career move.

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Samantha Holley-Horseman

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Samantha Holley-Horseman

I am a re-emerging disabled neurodivergent creative.

I am a trained Director (Rose Bruford, RTYDS), commissioned writer, access consultant and qualified teacher. I am also mum/carer to two neurodivergent children.

I am trying to embrace this – taking space in places I have been shown I can’t and to enable as many others to do the same. My focus is on creating spaces for those who have the most barriers to the Arts. Developing new ways to work. Dismantling the ways, we are told to make and exploring new practice. Recognition that creatives often are multi-skilled and not defined by one role.

As a producer my current interests extend to creating in digital forms, co-creation, local community arts in Warwick, with the aim of connection, a national organisation for disabled young people and experimentation in sensory theatre. Just because it’s the way it has always been doesn’t make it’s good.

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My Johansson

I am a choreographer, dancer, and actress who also self-produces and I work both nationally and internationally.

My main interest in producing is to develop my skills to be able to take my work further and reach new understandings and insights.

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Skylar Mabry

Originally from the United States, I am interested in work that is both locally and globally meaningful, primarily through theatre and community engagement.

I studied community theatre at East 15 and have been fortunate to work with a community theatre company for the last 2 years on a variety of projects: a community art project with residents of sheltered housing blocks, a large scale, original community musical for the Queen’s Baton Relay, and an outdoor sustainable fashion show powered by bicycles. More recently, I collaborated with Creative Basildon on a project which encouraged intergenerational activity through personal storytelling, as tied to objects of sentimental value.

I’m passionate about people coming together to hear and to tell stories, and I’m excited by outdoor and site-responsive work in non-traditional spaces. I’m interested in continuing work with international partners on more traditional theatre as well as community based and experimental work.

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Sea Osuji

I am an arts producer. I mostly work with creative communities across the West Midlands, contributing to the production of events and general content.

I prefer to take a holistic and person centered approach to creating and aim to interrogate systems and structures that contribute to the marginalisation of minority groups within the arts.

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Seyi Osi

I am a creative producer who focuses on the inclusivity and celebration of often marginalised communities such as the LGBTQAI+ community and those who are racially other-ed. Having grown up rarely seeing myself represented in mainstream arts and media, I seek to produce arts and culture that centers the queer and/or black experience.

I produce with Raze Collective to support and develop both in-person and digital queer performance such as leading on a digital audio stories project, Raze Sounds & co-producing an annual large-scale festival event, Queer Summer Fayre. I have experience producing theatre, cabaret & musicals at University College of London and has worked extensively in stage management & production roles with The Cocoa Butter Club, Mighty Hoopla, Underbelly, The Yard Theatre, RVT & Camden People’s Theatre. I am currently developing a podcast centering those who feel ‘other-ed’ with the support of the award-winning Transmissions Roundhouse.

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Hannah Swingler

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Hannah Swingler

I’m Hannah, a poet, artist, teacher, and big believer in the power of storytelling and play. My debut collection This Dress Has Pockets was published by Verve Poetry Press in 2019. I have performed across the country and internationally, on stages, streets, and radio. My work explores themes of nostalgia, family relationships, mental health, history, and heritage.

I enjoy the mess and materiality of making, finding initial inspirations from real places and people. Trained across Fine Art, Theatre and Creative Writing, I have a kaleidoscopic background that means I can create interdisciplinary work that evokes thought, questions reality and celebrates the little things in life.

After a balanced artistic practice of written and live performance, I’m so excited to become an Optimist, learning the power of production to make my work bloom to the next level. I want to build exciting, imaginative theatre that changes perspectives and celebrates forgotten stories.

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Bina Vasdev

By profession I am a secondary school teacher specialising in RE and PSHE.

I am currently elected as General Secretary at the Hindu Temple Derby. This role involves me carrying out fund/grant raising, outreach work as well as organising both cultural and religious events. I applied for The Optimists, so I could develop my skills and become more efficient in my role.